Your sales engine is a dynamic and collaborative venture. And in today’s advanced world, there are more opportunities to optimize than ever. But as buyer behaviors, buying variants and sales channels change – it’s difficult for sales leaders to focus on processes, productivity and revenue-generating activities.
The solution? An efficient sales operations (sales ops) system. By building a fully integrated team, you can reduce friction and enable sales professionals to focus their attention on activities that lead to deals and grow revenue.
You don’t have to take our word for it; 89 percent of sales professionals say sales ops plays a critical role in growing a business.
We’ve developed a breakdown of the fundamentals of a sales ops team and how it can support your overarching structure to streamline processes, set forecasts and align teams.
What is sales ops?
At its core, the sales ops team uses logistics and data to enable teams to sell more efficiently and develop strategies for increased revenue, productivity and closed deals.
All in all, sales ops is responsible for
- Streamlining the sales workflow.
- Analyzing data and making strategic decisions.
- Creating a systematic procedure for hiring and training sales employees.
- Building systems for higher productivity.
- Automating the sales process so the sales team can focus on more sales-generating activities.
Sales operations vs. Sales enablement
There’s often overlap in how we view sales operations and enablement. While the demarcation line can get blurry, they serve different ends.
Sales enablement plays an active role in supporting actual sales, while sales ops focuses on creating an efficient structure and successful process overall.
The two functions support different ends of the sales funnel. Sales enablement supports early phases, like discovery and awareness. This is because enablement aims to offer education and resources to help the team sell. Conversely, sales ops’ tactics support the late stages, like price negotiation and closing the sale. These more technical activities include:
- Defining the territory.
- Analyzing data.
- Reporting and identifying better ways to nurture and convert a prospect.
- Managing the tech stack.
These teams work best when they collaborate. For example, if sales ops identifies target metrics, the sales enablement team could develop training to support those goals.
Reducing friction between sales ops and sales enablement
Many sales organizations make the mistake of merging sales ops and enablement. Since they’re already easily confused, it’s best the keep the two separate and clearly define roles. Without drawing these lines, you’ll likely trigger redundancies and missteps that lead to an inefficient process.
Define the goals and expectations for each group and identify how they each support the larger business goal of increasing revenue and profits. Then, provide a roadmap for how the departments will work together.
Four pillars of sales operations
A primary goal of sales ops is to create a smooth, successful sales process. To do this, the team will pioneer the following efforts, characterized as four pillars.
One of the core aims of sales ops is to use data analysis and forecasting to create a solid-yet-agile sales strategy. This strategy helps the sales team get better conversions, increased customer satisfaction, shorter sales cycles and a higher win rate.
In fact, 85 percent of sales professionals believe sales ops has become increasingly more strategic. Data-driven decision-making and operational efficiency take a front seat.
This strategy includes high-level planning. Typically sales ops will create a revenue strategy and performance analysis, then tweak the original sales strategy and build an internal and external communication flow to break down silos and streamline execution.
Scribe top tip: Scribe helps you share how-to’s and Statement of Work (SOW) documents in seconds to align teams, standardize processes and reduce training time.
2. Data management
Sales ops measures and evaluates sales data to assess the success of the previous strategy and product performance. Based on how the data fares in the sales forecast, they develop a new technique or tweak the existing one for better results. Data reduces assumptions and promotes fact-based decisions.
The data comes from multiple sources, like internal sales tools, market research and competitor analyses. Sales ops will develop reports for the sales team and then optimize the strategy to improve results.
Sales ops empowers frontline sales professionals to increase the win rate and close deals. They can identify needs and weaknesses by analyzing data and then adjust strategies to meet goals.
With the help of sales enablement, they’ll build training programs for new hires and create a knowledge-management strategy to ensure the team is prepared to meet forecasted numbers.
Success for any team relies on cross-functional collaboration. Sales ops will support the relationship between sales and revenue-facing departments by creating a process flow that manages communication touchpoints.
With the other phases completed, it’s time to implement. Sales ops will socialize the strategy and execute processes. They will then monitor progress to identify any deltas. The best way to track is with a solid tech stack.
"With sales teams becoming more technology-enabled and specialized in various acquisition channels like inbound, outbound, conversion, closing… the ability to create a well-integrated and cohesive technology stack has become crucial to do accurate forecasting." — Janis Zech, CEO at Weflow
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. When measuring your performance, metrics vary with business type, sales goals, sales operations model and product/service.
However, there are standard metrics that will work for most teams. These include:
- Lead response time: The average time it takes for leads to respond to your communication email or call-to-action.
- Win rate: The number of deals won compared to the total (won + lost).
- Deal size: The average value of your contracts.
- Length of the sales cycle: The amount of time it takes you to close deals.
- Accuracy in forecasting: Actual results vs. errors in forecasted sales.
- Pipeline value: The monetary value of the projects in your pipeline.
Best practices for sales ops success
What worked for another sales organization might not work for you. It’s important to experiment, analyze data and be willing to pivot.
However, no matter your sales goals, here are some proven best practices for sales ops that your team should consider.
Set clear goals first
Like any other strategy, sales ops needs a clearly defined framework. To see results, define your objectives and unify your teams. If you don’t, you just might get derailed by ambiguity.
Sales leaders and team members should all have clear goals and processes to follow. Talk to your team and see what metrics are most appropriate. You might set quarterly milestones or KPIs that connect to larger company objectives. By setting targets, you save time, resources and potential for revenue.
Set systems for efficient cross-functional collaboration
Your sales ops team and sales leaders should work with other departments to strategize on marketing, customer experience and market research. You can use the data from these channels to develop an impactful lead structure.
Here’s how you can facilitate this collaboration:
- Set weekly leadership sync calls and cross-department meetings with marketing, finance and customer support to discuss areas of concern and measure performance.
- Build a common repository for all teams to access the sales team's work, findings, insights, and metrics.
- Prioritize and create a standard workflow for coordinating shared tasks that help achieve larger business goals. (Tools like Scribe can help with documentation!)
- Create a knowledge-sharing system, so teams can better understand each other’s targets and priorities.
Build repeatable and scalable systems
One of the core functions of sales ops is to build organized and scalable systems. Of course, divergent processes aren’t always easy to integrate or maintain. Focus on creating a centralized system that defines how each team will operate, communicate and manage data.
Once you’ve defined your workflow, you’ll need to align various teams. Start by outlining best practices focused on maintaining consistency. It might sound like a heavy lift, but with effort, you can effectively create a system that supports each team.
Here’s how to get started.
- Identify what’s lacking in your current systems. Build a plan to bridge those gaps and assess the perceived impact of these changes. (For example, will improving an element of system X make it easier for the sales reps to close deals, or will it negatively impact elsewhere? What are the unknowns? What are the goals? Validate your ideas by asking for participation from each department.)
- Set up a comprehensive tech stack that puts all the processes on auto-pilot to coordinate the sales team's tasks, track progress, evaluate data points, pull insights, etc.
- Set an intention for scalability by accurately forecasting realistic sales figures. Set KPIs, and evaluate metrics to measure growth in sales and which strategies are helping the sales team reach goals.
- Keep iterating and innovating with your operations model to see what works best for your product/service, sales reps, buyers, and organization as a whole. Like you iterate on your sales strategy, it’s important to iterate and tweak your sales operations systems to see results.
Finally, don’t forget to systematically organize all systems and procedures in a documented format so sales team members can revisit and access them before making any decisions or validating their ideas.
Sales ops is the backbone of a successful sales team
Your sales team is only as strong as its support system. Sales ops plays a crucial role in running an efficient organization. As you scale, pivot and evolve, your sales ops team maintains operations, monitors targets and strengthens your sales engine.
With this foundation, you can enable your team to make informed decisions and confidently close more deals.